An upright skeleton with outstretched wings: both foreboding and hopeful at once. Such is the nature of Talvihorros‘ Eaten Alive, a chronicle of addiction and recovery that sheds layers of skin and sinew as it crawls toward the light.
For Ben Chatwin (Talvihorros) and Dan Crossley (Fluid Radio/Facture), the London of the 1980s was a locale fraught with temptation, addiction and betrayal. For those caught in a cycle of helplessness, the same still holds true. One drinks to forget that one is drinking to forget. But Chatwin and Crossley managed to escape these darkly beckoning fates, emerging from their pockmarked alleyways to wonder at their survival.
The narrative arc of Eaten Alive can be gleaned from the track titles: “Little Pieces of Discarded Life”, “In the Belly of the Beast”, “Today I Am Reborn”. What begins in fear ends in courage. The turning point of the album arrives midway through “The Secrets of the Sky”, as glockenspiel (reminiscent of church bells) and organ chords (a Sunday service) lead to a chorus of reverberated guitars (a choir). Someone, somewhere, is waking up.
The children’s gurgles that follow beckon like a promised life, but the swift scales of “Becoming Mechanical” eventually slow and stop. The danger is never over. Depression seeks a crack in the emotional armor like water seeks the weakest point of a levee.
A scar is always a scar. A temptation is always a temptation. And as much as we’d like to think that our demons are driven out, they usually remain, albeit quieter and weaker. Sometimes they return with a vengeance. We are never fully healed. This knowledge is a blessing that can keep us sober, vigilant, determined to stand our ground. The sufferer has been eaten alive, yet is still standing, emaciated, held aloft by outstretched wings.
The creative fire is responsible for much of the world’s great art, and so it is no surprise that while the latter part of the album is crucial in terms of the arc, the early part contains the best individual tracks. The irony of such a statement is that it underlines the nature of the dark side: it’s far more interesting than the light side, which is why so many artists are drawn to the pit. As befits 1980s London, many of these tracks are of an industrial nature; the dark bass and swirling guitar of the “Little Pieces of Discarded Life” lacks only the angry, sputtering beats. When the final drone enters, it chokes the other instruments with a glove of retribution and recrimination. In like fashion, the organ notes of “Four Walls” battle with sullen guitars like addicts in an alley. The alluring danger of these songs mirrors the artist’s experience: many are content with a thrilling darkness, yet one must escape such a lifestyle in order to recover any semblance of sanity.
As is often the case with Facture releases, the elaborate physical package sold out in the pre-order; one hopes that a second printing will soon be made available. Eaten Alive was a labor of love, and more people deserve to own it. (Richard Allen)